Friday, October 31, 2008

bah humbug

No Halloween cheer at the Budman and Hachie Gal's house this year. We are going to be like those old spinster people in the neighborhood who turn off all their lights, lock their doors, and pretend they are not home when the trick or treaters pass by looking for Halloween treats.

Of course, there is a definite "love-hate" relationship with the whole Halloween concept in the UK. Some people love it, embrace it for what it is...a fun little holiday where people can dress up, eat alot of chocolate, and have a good excuse for a party....others see it as the UK's ultimate sell-out to an American custom...and a commercial one at that.

As for us, old habits die hard. I am all for any reason to dress up, eat chocolate, or have a party! Sadly, this year the only costumes we'll be donning are our pajamas as we pass for infirmary patients nursing our respective strep throat/cold (Hatchie Gal) and stomach bug (Budman).

So, bah humbug Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


It took a Texan (and one not living in the UK nor have they ever) to explain the fireworks are precursors to Guy Fawkes Day. Do I feel dumb!

Of course, I was not thinking there would literally be 7-10 days of pre-firework extravaganzas.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

what gives?

Third night in a row that there have been firework displays in west London. No clue why, but they are stopping traffic on the M4 on the way home from work as well as lighting up my back garden well after midnight. Is there some UK holiday/annual event I should be aware of?

Curiosity is killing me.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

all accounted for

All stranded runners in the lake district marathon accounted for. More than 700 runners sheltered the nights from the rain and high winds in farms and mines? Yes, that's right, mines! Others pitched their tents and braved the torrential rain and wind at the top of the mountain. Tents, you say? Who is hauling tents on their backs in a marathon?

Right, this is not your average marathon...these people were kitted out with major gear. Check out.

You Tube account of Lake District mountaineering marathoners

I am in awe but there is no way I'd ever sign up for this.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

stranded runners?

As if running in a marathon isn't hard enough...I mean, staying hydrated and refueled during the race, remaining injury free during the run, ensuring your run "your" race...the last thing you want to worry about is this (click the link below).

Waddle on, runners!

signed, sealed, and in process of being delivered

US absentee ballots have been received, candidates reviewed and selected,and ballot signed and in progress via the Royal Post back to the US for processing. In fairness, besides the Presidential election, the only other candidate we voted for was that stellar (I mean that in the truest sense of the word) D.A. for Ellis County.

Yes, I will be watching for the results of the Cain/Obama election on "election morning" my time. I can gladly report that both the Budman and I have completed our civic duties and have cast our votes.

Granted, we needed our MBAs to follow the pedantic balloting instructions, but the deed is done.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I would have rather had the shoes...

We are still not sure what exactly happened, but suffice to say, after a panicky hour or so on Wednesday morning, we learned that our car had been towed. Not stolen as initially suspected. I began to get that tip-off when I saw a couple of other people walking the neighborhood with this weird look on their faces apparently trying to find their cars.

Let me preface this post by saying that “No, I did not park in an illegal spot” on the streets of London. In fact, I parked my car literally across the street from my house and about 7-8 cars down from the front door. So trust me when I say, I know whether I am supposed to park there or not. And yes, I do have a parking permit for off-street parking. No, I did not park the wrong direction (not an issue anyway in London) nor did I park on the sidewalk. In fact, I am still unclear exactly WHY the car was towed.

But I digress.

After having to call the Budman at the office (and on the very day when he was hosting 75 people from all over Europe to a conference that he was chairing on behalf of his company), he contacted the necessary parties regarding the MIA vehicle (insurance company, employer – it is a leased company vehicle, London Police), and was steered toward “Trace” to find out if the vehicle had been towed. After 30 seconds of a database search, the Trace Department in fact confirmed it “had a trace on the Hachie Gal car” and that it was currently residing in a central London tow-yard. Well, at least it was not sitting in a chop-shop.

Next step – retrieval! As everything in London…easier said than done. Retrieval of the vehicle must be performed by the person named on the lease (so only the Budman could do this because it is his company car), and requires 5 forms of ID. Who has 5 forms of ID anyway? Upon closer inspection, the 5 forms of ID included: a driver’s license, copy of passport, 2 different bills (i.e. water and phone bills), and proof of car lease and insurance. All were in easy reach with the exception of the insurance card, which was held by the Budman’s employer…OK, he is really peeved at me about right now, because his fifth call of the morning on this subject (following employer notification, police, insurance company, and trace) is now once again to his employer to get said proof of insurance.

The day progressed normally from this point on (apart from the Budman putting on a happy face at his conference), and car pick-up occurred later that night…or shall I say morning. 1:00 AM to be exact, because poor Budman had to then host a dinner AFTER the conference and it was not over till 11:30 PM. By the time he arrived home, we caught a taxi to the tow-yard, drove around a bit trying to find the location in the dead of night, made a few wrong turns because the area was under road works, and were finally dropped off at the gate of the car pound.

At this moment I am now envisioning walking through a dark car pound, junk yard dogs with fangs glistening in the moonlight, abandoned buildings on the right and left as I tiptoe to the mobile home/trailer type office to get my car out of hock...only to be greeted by a toothless, tattoo-ed, balding, paunchy/pot-bellied chain-smoker who runs the car pound. I guess images of south Oak Cliff car pounds are hard to get out of my mind. To my amazement, we were greeted by a relatively efficient, clean shaven and officially looking dressed car pound attendant who was working nights while he pursued an MBA in accounting. And not a junk-yard dog in sight…but still plenty of dark abandoned buildings.

I tried to be really nice to the attendant because it was late and I wanted to go home and just crawl into my bed. When he started asking the Budman for career advice on the value of an accounting degree in the current market downturn, I groaned inwardly, smiled that sweet smile to my husband that only he knows after living with me for 25 years that basically says, “Let’s get a move on and get out of here”, and shut down the mentoring session.

After a few minutes of shuffling a lot of paperwork…yes, all those 5 forms of ID, we were jumping into the BMW and whooshing homeward…now approaching 2:30 AM. Budman made sure we legally parked this time.

Now, back to the reason for the towing in the first place. Well, I am not really sure. The official wording on the ticket reads “Parked in a restricted street during prescribed hours” but for the life of me, I see no signs stating some other restriction except those for off-street permit parking permits. Which I possess. Maybe there is another law I should know about…one that you learn in a UK driver’s education course. Oh…yea…I have yet to do that. So, the Budman and I will take the instructions for “how to protest a parking ticket and towing violation” provided to us by the MBA accounting student/parking attendant, and file a protest within 28 days.

The sickest part of the day (after the initial horror of thinking the car had been stolen)? I could have had a pair of Manola Blahnik shoes full price (not on sale)…from the fall/winter line…for the same bargain basement price of one ticketed, towed, and car-pound stowed SUV…

It is indeed enough to make a grown gal cry.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

house - - no

The good news is that we have a verbal agreement on the new house....and the landlord has agreed to all points. So, we dodged a bullet and we will in fact most likely be moving into the new pad mid-December. Nobody stole it out from under us.

The bad news is that I came out of the house this morning to head to work and the car was gone...missing...vanished....

Talk about being car stolen (turned out no but story for tomorrow)! I can report that retrieval is still in progress (and it is about 11 pm) but it has been located.

What a saga...check back tomorrow for the full story.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

did you know...?

Well, the first crush of donations and pledges have slowed but it has been a great start! Thanks to all of you who have graciously offered a monetary donation as well as your words of encouragement for both the London Marathon AND for my chosen charity, Guide Dogs UK. There is still some fundraising to do so if you have not yet had a chance to support, please consider this worthy cause....or do you Hachie Gal a personal favor and forego a couple of days of Starbucks coffees to show your support.

To help you consider/reconsider....did you know that...

...Guide Dogs UK has been providing blind and partially-sighted people with freedom and independence through the support of "man's best friend" for over 75 years?

...Guide Dogs UK requires over 50 million GBP a year to continue its work?

...Guide Dogs received no government funding and that their services are entirely dependent on voluntary donations? costs around 10 GBP a day to breed, train and care for each guide dog?

You can easily support me and Guide Dogs UK by donating even $5 to help me reach my goal in the London Flora Marathon. I can put in the miles every day because I am able to see and function dogs provide that gift of sight for others every day.

Please consider supporting me by making a donation to Guide Dogs UK (click on the box on the RH side of the blog). Thanking you in advance!

Monday, October 20, 2008

do we have the worst luck?

I am not ready to throw in the towel just yet, but can you believe it? After all the haggling on renting property #2, and a verbal agreement being reached, we drove by the "new" house on Sunday only to see a "let by XXXX" (another letting agent/real estate agency that shall remain nameless.

We have immediately inquired and are waiting for a response but has this property now been stolen out from underneath us?

Good grief...(the sage to be continued...)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

it's lookin' good

I am cautiously quote my favorite movie, "The party of the first part and the party of the second part have commenced negotiations." Verbal agreement has been struck on the new rental property in London and now the devil is in the details, i.e. getting a lease agreement finalized in writing. Keep your fingers crossed all goes well and the contract is signed by end of month.

Now, turning my attention to the 6th move in 8 years. Gotta love it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I could use your support!

First, thanks to the wonderful response I have had from friends and family on the fundraising for the London Marathon 2009. I have made a good start and thanks to Guide Dogs accepting me into one of their charity spots, I actualyl have a spot at the starting line compared to 80,000 others who weren't so lucky! For the 37 donations I have received thus far....a HEARTY THANK YOU from me and a mighty WOOF-WOOF from the dogs!

Marathon training begins in earnest November 1st, but this year, I have two goals in mind: (1) to have good race and time in London and (2) reach and possibly "break" my fundraising target.

So, if you can humor me for the next few months, I will periodically be doing a little "promo" on my London Marathon charity, Guide Dogs, and asking for your support! For those who have already given, thanks for your indulgence....for those of you who still might be considering, I'd welcome your support.

It's super easy....just click on the word DONATE on the right hand side to link to my fundraising page...any and all support welcomed!

well, it's official

We had decided that we would give it a good 6 months...just to make sure we were certain. We simply did not want to make a rash decision...after all, we were both so busy at work, who had time to really think about it.

In the end, we agreed. We are moving...again!

Before you gasp for air, pick yourself up off the floor, or have a stroke, let me qualify that last statement. We are a different place in London. In all truthfulness, we have not yet finalized an agreement on any new property, but we have looked at around 20 properties in the same area of Chiswick that we are living in now. We like the is just the house and street in Chiswick where we currently reside that we are not keen on.

"Why?", you ask? It is alot of reasons and really no one reason in particular.

(1) The constant neighbor issues next door (Trivia question: how many times in a given month can the metropolitan police and/or ambulances be called out for domestic disturbances? Answer: too many). The fact that next door is designated as a council house (translated: government housing) where 4 of the 8 family members have criminal records that we know of was the first of many factors leading to our decision.

The good news is that it appears the 2 youngest children have been removed from the home as best we can tell. The screams we would hear late at night would stand the hair up on the back of our necks.

(2) The pit bull puppy factory has seen its second litter this year (Excellent...I love hear the sound of pit bulls fighting next door from inside the comfort of my own bedroom).

(3) The 16 year old next door neighbor's attempted burglary into a few of the neighbors' house, including ours. How do we know...he left DNA behind at the scenes of his crimes and well, his DNA was already in the system. Fabulous! A repeat offender.

(4) The two signs that alternate being hung from the inside of the next door neighbor's front room window.... Sign 1: "The witch is in" or Sign 2: a picture of a unicorn. The signs are never there at the same time, and we aren't sure what unsavory message the signs are intended to convey...drug deal going down? "lady of the night" action? or some dark black magic? Who can tell?

(5) The repeated home repair issues on our house, such as plumbing, carpentry, and electrical, that are supposed to be managed by the current landlord's family...but not. My night job appears to be property manager.

So, we decided to delay any final decision through the end of summer and finalize our plan "post - Spain" vacation. When we returned from 2 weeks in sunny Spain to find the entire electrical system in our place had been out to 2 weeks (despite our attempts to have timers on the lights to ward off further burglary attempts), only to find a fox had eaten through improperly laid electrical wires...well, it was a sign from above. The fact that the property manager was unable to assist with the situation b/c he lives 2 hours away did not help matters.

Let's just say, we've had enough. I'd even gone as far as not to even write about it in the blog because I'd hoped the situation would improve.

"When?" you ask? ASAP....the trick is finding a place we like.
After sadly not getting the first property we put a rental offer on in early October (yes, that house was next door to "Tim Dalton's pad"....a.k.a. "Bond, James Bond") because the landlords changed it into a bidding war on us mid-stream, we said our goodbyes and moved on. And while we have not yet put in an offer on a second property, it is only a matter of time. From our mouths to God's ears.

In a perfect world, we'd loved to be moved before the Christmas trek to Texas, but only Santa knows whether we "have been naughty or nice" this year and if we'll get our Christmas wish. We do have a possible property in mind but since we have had such bad karma in this regard, let me not jinx it until it is a done deal.

"Where?", you ask? Same area...Chiswick. We like west London, and it is convenient to both our jobs, Heathrow airport, and the area has a great feel, good transport links, and nice restaurants and shops.

While the prospect of moving for the 6th time in 8 years about sends us over the edge, a man's "home is indeed his castle", and we really need our home to be a sanctuary not a stressor. What is so odd is that Chiswick is really a family-friendly area...we were just super unlucky with this last rental.

So, we'll keep you posted, and let you know how things progress. Please keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

he is indeed a "Wonder" provide some of my favorite quotes a personal singer fav of mine:

"I just called to say I love you, I just called to say I care..." because "you are the sunshine of my life" "My cherie amore". It is "signed, sealed and delivered" ....he is a "Wonder-man".

Yes, we saw THE dude, Mr. Stevie Wonder, in concert at the London O2. He's been singing for 48 years...simply amazing.